I wasn’t trying to get from New York to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving, just from Raleigh to Frankfurt with my family to start a long-planned vacation but the travel gods weren’t having it. It took a combination of travel vehicles to finally get us here to Heidelberg. More specifically to the Max Planck Haus which is the guest house of the Max Planck Institute where my husband will be working for the next three weeks. While he is there, Elisabeth and I will spend some time exploring the city. And in my downtime, I’ll chronicle those adventures here.
Heidelberg is the first leg of our 7 week German adventure. We flew into Frankfurt after a rough start of canceled and delayed flights in the US. All we saw of Frankfurt was the airport however because it is conveniently connected by tram to the train station where we were really headed. A ten minute train ride landed us in Mannheim where we changed trains to get to Heidelberg. Twenty minutes more and we were finally, finally, in Heidelberg…after almost 24 hours of travel. At this point, I don’t care what I hear of Australia, there is no way that I want to spend that much time again getting somewhere, anywhere!
I should add at this point that I speak no German so the onus was on my German husband to do all of the sign reading, ticket buying, direction following, cab hailing and money changing in addition to being the main luggage schlepper while I managed our 1 year old daughter and her bag. Let me say this is no small feat…for both of us. Once finally at our the apartment, he left to get some dinner.
I noticed a few things in Germany so far-
- The marvelous public transport! Trains may be delayed but they run regularly to everywhere. Airports, like Frankfurt’s which is the largest in Germany and one of the oldest, are often connected to train stations which makes getting from place to place that much more seamless, especially if you aren’t a native speaker. I haven’t yet experienced the buses but my husband takes the bus to the Institute every morning and back. I plan on taking Elisabeth to storytime at a local library and we’ll travel by bus to get there.
- The downside of all that public transport-the cigarette smoke in the airports, on the train platforms, at bus stops and everywhere else. When I was younger living in Florence, I didn’t mind being surrounded by a swirl of cigarette smoke. Clearly, I’ve changed. The smoke felt overwhelming at times and indeed, is pretty much everywhere. Even in the cafes, before and after a meal, which I can’t stand. Ugh.
- On the upside, people actually talk to each other here. They are truly focused on each other in conversation. It’s amazing to watch, kind of like a lesson in active listening from people who do it instinctively and without effort. And it’s not just women sitting down for coffee. The boys in the parks sitting with bottles of beer are engrossed in conversation with each other. Parents at the park. It’s everyone. No one is checking their phone, ever. If they get their phone out, it’s to write down something. I truly swooned over this and wish we Americans could be as intentional in our conversations.
- And a few of the little things that I remember from other trips and appreciate: cashiers at supermarkets have chairs to sit (lovely for all…especially for pregnant women); name badges that identify an employee as Mr or Mrs ______ which seems like a great way to promote respect and kindness; the smallness of things: drinking glasses are 6 oz; facial tissue is sold in individual packets (sniffs); the tiny cars, trucks & motorbikes
; children and their needs are treated as important, whether as part of conversations, or as patron in a store or playing in a park. (more of this later).
We’ve rented a car (a first for me here!) and we head to Regensburg for the day to see my in-laws tomorrow. Today we head to Cafe Frisch on the corner for croissants & cafe au lait, a local toy store and tackle the mundane task of coin-op laundry this afternoon. More after the weekend.
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